road tripping with Ambo
Though planning the trip was much more stressful than actually executing the much revised itinerary, D still had a lot of work to do. For example, during Ambo’s courtesy call with local government officials, D had to juggle the camera and his notepad so that he’d have good pictures as well as detailed notes for the subsequent trip report. Even the drive time between sites offered little respite from work: calling site officers, confirming hotel accommodations, passing information to Ambo, and of course wading through the endless stream of work emails on his BlackBerry, D hardly had a chance to admire the landscape.But traveling with the boss does have its perks. Wildlife and environmental conservation are a big focus for Ambo and several of the stops on this trip included conservation projects. The most memorable of these was the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT). With the help of USAID, NRT facilitates the development of community-led conservation initiatives throughout Kenya, engaging communities that had been at war with each other in a reconciliation effort that protects the lands that had previously been at the heart of their bitter disputes. While animal populations have been precipitously decreasing throughout Kenya, NRT boasts an increase in animals on the lands it protects. In fact, on a half hour drive around a swamp that was situated right next to the NRT center, D saw almost as many different kinds of animals as he did over the course of three days in Tsavo.
The biggest highlight for D came on the second morning of the trip. After a full day of activities around Nyeri, Ambo’s traveling party spent the night at the Mount Kenya Safari Club. Situated on the equator under the snows of Mt. Kenya and surrounded by 100 acres of landscaped gardens, the Club originally served as a retreat for movie stars, and its former members have included Winston Churchill and Bing Crosby. But it wasn’t the luxurious accommodations that made the stay such a memorable experience. After breakfast, the Club’s General Manager invited Ambo to visit a neighboring property. The owners were away – in fact, they only spend two weeks of the year vacationing near Mt. Kenya – but their property was not uninhabited. Turns out, they kept a few pets that did not accompany them on their travels. The lioness was only partly domesticated, but the 18-month old cheetahs were completely tame and started purring loudly as soon as the visitors approached their cage. The joys of petting two playful, purring cheetahs cannot be translated into words, so we will leave you with this picture: